I believe everyone has heard the infamous mantra: “choose experiences over things”. While I am a firm believer in this statement, I think that souvenirs get a bad rep for being tacky, cheaply made, and cliché; which, a lot of them are, but not all souvenirs carry those titles and everything that I have acquired while on the road I still use and love (that have been from the list below). It is true that physical items can’t hold our memories for us, but they can help us remember the people we purchased them from, the friends we met, and our favorite stores and areas that we meandered our way to on the road.
I think with a constant influx of tourism everywhere on the globe, it has pushed local artisans to the back burner and made more room for tourism shops lining the streets no matter where you go. For me personally, the culture is lost in these stores and with supporting local stores it can help bring it back to life.
These items can be placed around the home, worn, or collected for life, so you can be filled with the curiosity and love for your past trips on a daily basis.
Tips To Keep In Mind On The Road
Don’t buy things you wouldn’t buy at home – I think with this tip alone it can rule out a lot of the mass-produced items that you see along the streets. I do believe that this also a really good way to go out of the tourist spots a little bit and venture out into the unknown (in a good way).
Know who/what your money is going towards – With some places this might be a little bit difficult, but when you walk into a little local store and you’re able to speak with the owner about their product, that’s when you know it’s right (among other ways also), and in doing that it actually encourages me to make a purchase because I want to support their shop. It fills me with joy whenever I can support people following their dreams on and off the road.
Resist impulse buys and make mindful purchases – Ever since I adopted a more “minimalistic” lifestyle, I find myself stopping and thinking before I choose to buy things. When I do this I can think about what the item would bring to my life, how I would use it, etc.. Sometimes we can get caught up in the moment and purchase a bunch of things and then we later on and look back and don’t necessarily have a use for anymore. With the items listed below, they’re going to help you have that warm feeling you get of traveling somewhere new again and again.
Make sure you can travel with the item back home – Okay so learn from my mistake and don’t purchase things you’re stoked about and then realize that they will be confiscated in security. While I was in the Philippines I bought about a liter of fresh mountain honey for my dad and when I was flying to another island security took it from me; even though I was going to check the bag. You can bring back certain foods on flights but always check with the airlines and rules before you leave. The funny part about my situation was that I had tucked away from fresh chilis from the market in a sock, in the same bag might I add, and I guess they didn’t see them so I ended up succeeding in getting those out of the country but not bottled honey lol.
Photographs – Photographs are easily my most cherished memories because they are timeless, raw, and you can use them in so many different ways. As times go on and our mental memories tend to fray a little bit, we have photos to remind us of those moments of tears from laughter, sunsets that took our breath away, and the friends we met along the road. In my future home, I plan on decorating it with photographs from all of my travels and it will be a time capsule of my favorite memories in my favorite space.
Backpack Patches – These are extremely popular in the world of backpacking, and they might be a bit cliché to some people, but I personally feel that this is a fun and interesting way to showcase the countries that you have traveled to. They take up minimal space in your suitcase and you’re going to have them forever to look back on. If putting them on your backpack is too flashy, you could even make them into a DIY project and put your favorites on an army green or denim jacket.
Artwork – This is my personal favorite for giving souvenirs to my friends and family (although I always end up wanting to purchase them for myself). On every trip that I have taken, I always end up somewhere with local art and I always go out of my way to buy it and support the artists that created it. My favorite painting that I have purchased so far has been in Bali, Indonesia. It’s a green toned painting of Mt. Agung and every cent that I spent on it went to support the local female artists in Ubud. This also makes for great decoration, so, like the photos, you could make a huge wall of art in your room or office and have something to appreciate and look back on every morning.
Jewelry – If you’re a jewelry person, this one is definitely for you. Personally, decorating my body in my favorite gold and silver pieces helps me express myself; even more so when there are stories behind the rings you choose to stack or the necklace that you wear every day. Whenever I was in Scotland there was a store that sold Scottish green marble that was local to only the Isle of Skye. I think it would be really unique to collect different stones from the regions whether it be raw or in a necklace or ring and then you could eventually have hands that tell a bunch of stories and geological history.
Books – What better way to immerse yourself in local culture than purchasing a book from a locally owned bookstore? These are a great way to purchase a story about the place your visiting or add to your reading list/book collection. You never know what you’re going to find a bookstore and I think that’s the beauty of them. You’ll stumble upon the perfect book all while finding novels you have never heard of and various types of artwork. Plus, these can be traded and handed down for centuries, so you can read them time and time again or pass the story on to a friend.
Household Items – I know that shopping for the home can be quite expensive, so wait to buy things like rugs, curtains, chairs, or even tables until you’re abroad instead of buying a piece that has the aesthetic you want from Homegoods. You’re going to remember that time in Morroco when you picked out the perfect rug rather than that time at the store when you dreaded paying for an overpriced household item. In this way, every morning that you draw the curtains, use a tool, or cook, you’re going to remember special travel moments.
Clothing – So, for me personally, I tend to find clothes more my style in countries I travel to. Which is a blessing and a curse let’s be honest, but it makes them all the more special when you can curate an outfit from pants you bought in Morroco and a top you found in Italy that you love. As always I recommend knowing who made your clothes and making sure you’re supporting the local companies abroad.
Locally Crafted Items – Artwork and Jewelry can also fall under this category, but there are endless options when it comes to finding something handcrafted by local artisans. I’ve seen woodworking, pottery, glass blowing, painting, jewelry making, handbags (vegan, of course), and even family-owned boutiques. In supporting these companies, you can put your money towards helping new shops instead of mass-produced tourism apparel.
Local Specialties – Generally speaking, most places that you visit are going to have a special or something local that it is known for like honey, coffee, chocolate, or other food-related items. If you ended up choosing an Airbnb with a kitchen, you can go to the local market, purchase some of these goodies and specialties, and have a night in where you enjoy a traditional (insert country here) cuisine. Always make sure you’re able to transport the item back to your home country.
Thank you for taking interest in purchasing greener souvenirs as you travel and let me know in the comments below what your favorite souvenir is and why it’s special to you.
Until next time,
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